The markets of Male
The Fish Market of Male is a must-see. You might be unlucky and turn up when it is not busy but there is a good chance that you’ll see every inch of the large, tiled floor covered with tuna. For the most part it is skipjack, with plenty of the smaller bonito.
Interestingly, this is almost a pure market, where the price constantly changes according to predictions about the size of the day’s catch and when it will arrive.
Next door is the Vegetable Market, which is well worth a walk through to see what fruits and vegetables are grown in the islands, and what products are made from them. Note the betel leaves, areca nuts and white lime that combine to give the only legal intoxication in the Maldives.
On the other side of the road from these markets is what is known as the Atolls Harbour. A line of boats off-loads local produce and loads up with Male ’s imported goods to take back to their particular islands. Living on them is a floating population of thousands, adding more spice to the life of the capital.
Cruise by boat
Embark on a boat from male and explore the Maldives by boat.
Historical and cultural places
The Hukuru Miski (‘Friday Mosque’) is the most renowned mosque in the country. More than ten mosques deliver Friday prayers in Male but this is the original – the one attended by the sultans. It was built in 1656 on the site of the Maldives’ first mosque, probably built, in turn, on the site of the main Buddhist havitha. Buddhism preceded Islam in most of the country.
If you are not able to see the remarkable carved panels, lacquerwork and bold calligraphy in faded red inside the mosque and appreciate its intimate stillness and grandeur, then do inspect the amazing coral carvings around the exterior and on the gravestones. The stones with gold plaques are those of sultans, those that are peaked are male graves, those that are rounded, female. The corpulent minaret was built twenty years later by the same sultan, Iskander 1, after he had been on the Hajj. It is described as being after the ‘Mecca model’.
Medhu Ziyarat and Muleeage
The minaret faces across the road to the last resting place of Adul Barakat Yusuf from Tabriz in Persia, who converted the Maldives to Islam in 1153. It is called the Medhu Ziyarat.
Behind the ziyarat is the former residence of the president, Muleeage. The original house was built in 1913 by Sri Lankan architects and the extension completed in 1993. Former President Gayoom built a new presidential palace on Orchid Magu two years later. It is called Theemuge after an early dynasty.
Just along from Muleeage is one of the last green spots on the island. Sultan Park replaces a section of the historic palace grounds of the sultans. It is open to visitors everyday but is surprisingly little used except on Fridays.
In the southeast corner of the park is an ancient, compact and fascinating mosque called Kalhu Vakaru Miski. It used to be sited elsewhere, was auctioned off, rebuilt on a resort (now Full Moon), brought back and reconstructed here. You will note there is no mortar used between the massive carved, coral stones and no nails in the wood. The secret is the keystone: those blocks depicting locked double doors and a hanging key.
The Islamic Centre
At the other end of the scale is the Islamic Centre, whose mosque accommodates 5,000 every week for Friday prayers. It is a good example of modern Islamic design, built in 1984. Visitors are welcome in between prayer times.
The National Gallery & National Museum
I would like to make a special mention here for the National Gallery, which is sited on the main north-south shopping road, Chandani Magu and on the edge of Sultan’s Park. They do an admirable job of trying to display national and international works of art and changing exhibitions. The museum exhibits are valuable but not well displayed or treasured sadly.